Dionne Lee’s elegant installation at Oakland’s Interface Gallery is a show of just six works—a number that belies the wide-ranging references within.
Running, rigging, wading looks at the generative and destructive qualities of water, tracing that duality from the early days of American history into a future wracked by the effects of climate change. Lee’s silver gelatin prints, a video and a single sculpture hang in the balance of all those ideas, linked by a collage-like aesthetic that runs throughout the different media.
For her prints, Lee clips, scans and manipulates found images before layering them as individual negatives. In Surface tension, a circle of floating bodies (synchronized swimmers) becomes ghostly through a solarization effect, conjuring thoughts of those forced to journey by water as part of the Atlantic slave trade.
Lee’s own hand is evident throughout. She is not just making work, but redefining landscape photography, reenacting history (Challenger deep is a near 20-minute video of Lee wandering a field with dowsing rods), and remaking old tools (a handmade rope hangs from the gallery’s ceiling).
To examine all these processes and reference points, the exhibition culminates in a panel discussion on Saturday, Aug. 3, 1–3pm. Facilitated by Bay Area writer Elena Gross, the panel brings Lee, artist and educator Tamara Porras and curator Deena Chalabi into conversation on the show’s penultimate day. —Sarah Hotchkiss